Feeding your Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) a wide range of different insects is good husbandry. A varied diet helps to ensure that your Leopard Gecko gets all the right nutrients and can provide environmental enrichment through practicing hunting. Grasshoppers could be an exciting addition to your Leopard Gecko’s diet. But, can Leopard Geckos eat grasshoppers (Acrididae spp.)?
Leopard Geckos can eat grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are not toxic or poisonous. Grasshoppers can be bought as live feeder insects or freeze-dried. They are very high in protein and have an approximate Ca:P ratio of 1:6. Grasshoppers have high fiber and can grow very large, which is an impaction risk.
That’s the quick answer, but there’s a lot more to learn. Read on to find out whether grasshoppers are right for your own Leopard Gecko, and how to go about trying them for the first time.
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Leopard Geckos Can Eat Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are safe to feed to Leopard Geckos. Grasshoppers in themselves are not toxic or poisonous. Some grasshoppers are referred to as locusts, defined by whether that species forms swarms or not.
However, feeding grasshoppers can carry a number of drawbacks, challenges, and risks, which it is good to be aware of.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of feeding grasshoppers to Leopard Geckos, so you can decide if it is right for you.
Pros Of Feeding Grasshoppers To Leopard Geckos
The pros of feeding grasshoppers to Leopard Geckos are that they are a good source of nutrients and are good enrichment.
Grasshoppers Have A Good Nutritional Profile
Grasshoppers and/or locusts have a very good nutritional profile. Below, we have compared the nutritional profile of species of grasshopper against crickets and mealworms.
The grasshopper species have more protein than either crickets or mealworms.
The grasshopper species contain similar amounts of moisture as crickets and mealworms, so would provide about the same level of hydration.
The grasshopper species contain more dietary fiber than crickets or mealworms. Leopard Geckos are able to digest fiber from insects well.
But, if a high-fiber diet is fed in excess, it could lead to digestive problems. This is an example of why varying your Leopard Geckos diet is important to keep them healthy.
The calcium to phosphate ratio of locusts is better than those of mealworms for Leopard Geckos. This is great, as it means they are less likely to contribute to metabolic bone disease.
Nutritional Information For 2 Species Of Grasshopper Vs Crickets And Mealworms
|Ca:P Ratio||Not given||1:6||1:9||1:7|
Grasshoppers Make Great Hunting Enrichment
Locusts and grasshoppers have powerful hind legs that they can use to jump 50cm! This means that they are very active and fast, and difficult to catch. If you have an energetic Leopard Gecko, they are likely to find this very exciting and stimulating.
Stimulating your Leopard Gecko’s mind and body with new experiences is an important part of providing good animal husbandry.
It is called environmental enrichment. It helps prevent animals from becoming bored, struggling mentally with captivity, and becoming lethargic or overweight.
Environmental enrichment can help animals express natural behaviors like hunting. Live grasshoppers are much more enriching than pre-made food mix or dead insects.
But, if your Leopard Gecko would struggle to catch a grasshopper, you can slow them down. Simply put them in the fridge for ten minutes before you feed, to give your Leopard Gecko an easier catch.
Cons Of Feeding Grasshoppers To Leopard Geckos
The cons of feeding grasshoppers to Leopard Geckos include lack of availability, expense, size, and others. Let’s explore further.
Grasshoppers Are Not Available For Sale In The USA
The sale and breeding of locusts in the USA are banned. This is because some species of locusts are extremely dangerous to the environment and economy. When they swarm, they can destroy millions of pounds of crops in days.
The grasshopper species that are commonly bred and sold in Europe and South America for the purpose of use as feeder insects are all locusts.
As such, it is basically impossible to buy live grasshoppers as feeder insects if you live in the USA.
The alternative ways to feed your Leopard Gecko grasshoppers if you live in the USA are to catch them from the wild or to buy freeze-dried grasshoppers. But, there are risks associated with both.
Freeze-Dried Grasshoppers Can Cause Impaction
Freeze-dried grasshoppers are available in pet shops and online. Freeze-dried insects contain very little moisture, thanks to the freeze-drying process.
But, as the grasshoppers have essentially been concentrated, they contain extremely high protein and fiber levels.
You can learn more about how freeze-drying affects grasshoppers’ nutritional value in our article: Can Leopard Geckos Eat Freeze-Dried Grasshoppers?
Freeze-dried grasshoppers can be useful as very occasional treats, or as an emergency back-up food for when your live feeders are unavailable. Unfortunately, free-dried grasshoppers do not make a good staple food.
They are very dehydrated and are at high risk for causing an impaction. Impaction occurs when food becomes trapped in the digestive tract and causes a blockage.
It can be fatal. Also, because freeze-dried grasshoppers don’t move, many Leopard Geckos find them uninteresting and may not accept them.
Wild Grasshoppers Carry Risks
Grasshoppers can be commonly found in gardens and fields around the world. They are not particularly difficult to catch. However, feeding wild insects to your Leopard Gecko is not advisable.
Wild insects are exposed to illnesses, pathogens, and injuries that captive-bred insects are not. If you catch a wild grasshopper that is suffering from a bacterial infection and feed it to your Leopard Gecko, your Leopard Gecko also ingests that bacteria. This could be harmless, but it could make them very ill.
Similarly to infection and disease, wild insects are exposed to many parasites. Some parasites are invisible from the outside and may lurk in the gut.
If your Leopard Gecko eats a grasshopper that has parasites, he risks becoming a host to parasites himself.
Many types of grasshoppers, especially locust species, are pests. Because of this, they are extremely likely to have been exposed to chemicals designed to kill them, including pesticides and insecticides.
Also, they love to eat crops and spend time on agricultural land, so they may be coated in fertilizer chemicals, too. These chemicals can all be harmful to your Leopard Gecko and could cause poisoning.
Grasshoppers Can Become Too Large
The grasshopper species that are available to buy as live feeder insects can grow very large. This means that if you don’t use them quickly, they can become too large even for an adult Leopard Gecko. Adult locusts can reach up to 7 cm!
We have created a handy guide to the sizes of commonly available locusts and which is right for your Leopard Gecko. You can check it out below.
Grasshoppers are Expensive
For Leopard Gecko owners outside of the USA, the primary reason that grasshoppers are not preferred over crickets as a staple feeder insect is the expense.
Grasshoppers cost more than crickets, and the difference adds up if you use a lot of them for a long time.
What Size Grasshopper Is Right For Leopard Geckos?
The size of the grasshopper that is right for your Leopard Gecko depends upon the size of your pet and will change as they grow.
A great rule of thumb for feeding anything to your Leopard Gecko is to only feed things that are smaller than the space between their eyes. This indicates the width of their throat and reduces the chance that food will cause choking or impaction.
Also, observe your Leopard Gecko as they are eating. If they seem to be struggling to swallow the insect, you may have chosen one that is too big. They should be able to swallow easily.
As grasshoppers grow so large, they are generally better suited to adult Leopard Geckos. But, they can be bought in many sizes, from when the grasshoppers hatch.
Here’s an example of which size grasshoppers you might choose for your Leopard Gecko, by age.
Different suppliers will classify their locusts by slightly different sizes than those featured in this image. But, this guide can still help you make a good choice.
|Age of Leopard Gecko||Approx Size of Grasshopper||Category|
0 – 4 months
4 – 10 months
Extra-large and adult grasshoppers and locusts are likely to be too big for any Leopard Gecko.
But, you can judge for yourself depending on what type of grasshopper or locust you are buying, the size of your gecko, and the advice of the supplier.
How Many Grasshoppers To Feed To Leopard Geckos?
How many grasshoppers to feed your Leopard Gecko again depends on their age, health status, and the size of the grasshopper. As with crickets, 5-8 correctly-sized grasshoppers are about right for one meal.
But, it is best to offer a varied diet, and perhaps swap out a few grasshoppers for a worm or other insect. Here is an example diet for an adult Leopard Gecko, who eats 3 times per week.
|Monday||5-6 large grasshoppers||2-3 medium-fat larval feeder|
|Wednesday||5-8 large grasshoppers (dusted)||2 wax worms (every other week)|
|Saturday||5-6 large grasshoppers (dusted)||2-3 medium-fat larval feeder|
Baby Leopard Geckos need to eat daily until around 4 months of age. Again, around 5-8 insects per meal are appropriate.
The portion control is based on the size of the grasshopper you are offering. For babies, this would be very small.
You can learn more about how many grasshoppers to feed your Leopard Gecko in our feature article: Can Leopard Geckos Eat Locusts?
How Should You Prepare Grasshoppers To Feed To Leopard Geckos?
As with most other feeder insects, grasshoppers have an imbalanced calcium to phosphorus ratio. Leopard Geckos need to eat a diet that has a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1:1 to 2:1.
The grasshoppers that we have looked at in detail today have a Ca:P ratio of approximately 1:6.
If your Leopard Gecko ate a diet with a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1:6, he would not be getting enough calcium.
As a result, his body would leach the calcium it needs from his skeleton. He would suffer from weak bones and seizures, and would eventually die. This is known as metabolic bone disease.
In order to correct the calcium to phosphorus ratio of grasshoppers, it is important to prepare them before feeding to your Leopard Gecko. To do this, you need to gut load and dust them with calcium powder.
Gut loading is what we call the process in which we feed nutrient-rich foods to insects before we feed them to a Leopard Gecko.
It is beneficial to your Leopard Gecko because when he eats the insect, he also gets all the nutrients within the body of the insect.
Grasshoppers, including locusts, can be gut-loaded very effectively. Grasshoppers are herbivores and need to eat a lot of food to live and grow.
They will eat most fruits and vegetables, but it is best to stick to leafy greens, potatoes, squashes, and apples. This helps ensure that you don’t accidentally give them toxic or unhealthy foods such as avocado.
In the 48 hours before feeding grasshoppers to your Leopard Gecko, it can be beneficial to offer a specific food product designed for gut-loading insects.
The products improve the grasshoppers’ calcium to phosphorus ratio. Research shows that T-Rex® Calcium Plus Food is a great choice, but there are many available.
Grasshoppers also need to stay hydrated, so they need a water source. Unfortunately, they can easily drown in a bowl of water.
The best solution is to use a gel product such as Fluker’s Cricket Quencher. It is fortified with calcium, provides a water source, and is safe.
Directly before feeding grasshoppers to your Leopard Gecko, you should dust them with a calcium-rich powder. A good example is Repashy Calcium Plus, which is recommended by herp vets.
To dust the insects thoroughly, place them in a bag, such as a plastic ziplock sandwich bag. Put in some powder, and gently shake them around, until the grasshoppers are well coated.
Baby, juvenile, sick, and gravid Leopard Geckos should have all of their grasshoppers dusted. Healthy adults should have their grasshoppers dusted once or twice a week.
How Should You Give Grasshoppers To Leopard Geckos?
The best way to give grasshoppers to Leopard Geckos is inside a feeding box or their own tank. You want to give your Leopard Gecko a chance to enjoy hunting, without losing the grasshopper.
If you have a particulate substrate such as sand in your Leopard Gecko’s enclosure, it is important to minimize any swallowing of the substrate. Frequent swallowing of a substrate can lead to impaction.
In order to avoid substrate being swallowed, try to deliver the grasshopper on a flat or smooth area. Alternatively, you can put down a flat surface over the substrate in your Leopard Gecko’s tank during feeding time.
Don’t simply throw in a handful of grasshoppers. Deliver them one at a time and observe your Leopard Gecko hunting.
Not only is this a lot of fun, but you will also be able to see how easily he catches and swallows the grasshoppers.
Also, this will prevent grasshoppers from hiding in the tank and getting lost. If this happens, the grasshopper could die and rot, could lay eggs, or could potentially pose a danger to your Leopard Gecko.
Can Grasshoppers Hurt Leopard Geckos?
Grasshoppers are herbivorous and are not likely to be attracted to your Leopard Gecko for food. However, they do have powerful jaws that they use to eat massive amounts of raw vegetation. So, they are capable of biting.
Grasshopper suppliers advise that grasshoppers do not bite Leopard Geckos, so it is unlikely to be a big issue.
However, it is always advisable to remove all uneaten insects from the tank, and never leave them in there. Even a tiny bite could become infected and cause your Leopard Gecko to become unwell.